All the hype, pomp and circumstance will have concluded upon the lighting of the Olympic Flame later tonight in Rio de Janeiro as we get set for the triumphant return of the Olympic Games. Now, it’s time for the stars of the show to display their skill to the world. First up for the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team: Sarah Scherer, Ginny Thrasher, Will Brown and Jay Shi.
Tossing out the first pitch are Scherer and Thrasher along with 49 other competitors in the Women’s Air Rifle event that again will be the first medals handed out in Rio. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach will be in attendance to hand them out and with any luck Scherer and/or Thrasher will be on the receiving end. They’ve both demonstrated the ability to perform in this extreme match in which, really, only perfection is a guarantee of highest placement. NBC is livestreaming the event in its entirety beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET with Scherer firing from firing point 35 and Thrasher from firing point 37.
Just the fact that she’s competing is an extraordinary feat for Scherer, having undergone two major back surgeries since 2014 as a result of three herniated discs. The 2012 Olympian, who finished seventh in this event in London, sat out the better part of two years trying to get back against her doctors wishes to compete. She announced her readiness with a Finals appearance during World Cup Bangkok in March and then by winning Olympic Trials. She’ll compete for the final time in Rio, unable to continue in a sport she loves due to a back that won’t support it.
Bleacher Report named Thrasher one of 11 teen phenoms to watch in Rio and her 2016 resume justifies just that. Quite simply, she’s been on target this year and will be looking to put the exclamation point on a dream season at the Deodoro Shooting Center. It all started with a freshman campaign for the ages at West Virginia University where she became the only freshman ever to sweep both NCAA individual titles while helping lead the Mountaineers to a fourth-straight title. She picked up her Olympic spot in April in Three-Position Rifle and went out and finished seventh in Air Rifle at World Cup Munich in May, followed by winning a national title in Air Rifle at USA Shooting’s National Championships in late June.
China’s Dongqi Chen owns the World Record of 422.9 points set in March 2014, an average score of 10.57. Despite that, China’s team is so deep she didn’t make the team and will not shoot in Rio. Finals world-record holder, 2010 World Champion and defending Olympic champion Siling Yi will be though as will two-time Olympic champion (2004 & 2008) Li Du. The 34-year-old Du won the Rio World Cup test event back in April. The event will also feature Andrea Arsovic of Serbia, currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Italy’s Petra Zubasling is the reigning World Champion and will be a force to reckon with too. The U.S. has won two gold medals in the event but not since 2000 when Nancy Johnson did so. Pat Spurgin also won gold in the event’s Olympic debut of 1984. Retired Olympic champion Jamie Corkish finished fourth and fifth in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Format: During the qualification round, every competitor fires 40 shots within 50 minutes. The qualifications are scored in decimal points, the maximum score per shot being 10.9 points because of an additional set of 10 rings within the 10-point circle that increases the score of 0.1 points as it approaches the center of the target. Shots are fired in the standing position at 10m (33 feet) trying to hit a 10-ring target of only .5mm diameter, or roughly the size of a period at the end of a sentence. The top-eight athletes from the qualification phase advance to the final match, where they can shoot up to 20 final shots. The maximum score for each shot is still 10.9 points, setting the highest possible score at 218.0 points. The eight finalists start the match with 0 points: the qualification score is not carried forward into the final round. The final begins with two series of 3 shots, to be fired within 150 seconds, followed by 14 single shots to be fired on command and within 50 seconds. After the second single shot (eighth overall), the athlete with the lowest aggregate score is eliminated from the final and places eighth. Any following elimination is determined every two shots until the gold and silver medalists are decided by the 20th and conclusive shot. If there is a tie for the lowest ranking athlete to be eliminated, the tied athletes will fire additional tie-breaking single shots until the tie is broken.
Qualification – 7:30 – 8:20 a.m. ET
Finals – 9:30 – 10:00 a.m.
NBC LIVESTREAM starting at 9:30 am ET. Also, stay tuned to NBC SportsChannel for live Finals coverage.
Men’s 10m Air Pistol will follow Women’s Rifle the first day of the Rio Games. For Jay Shiand Will Brown, this will be their Olympic debut, but likely not to be their last. Brown is set on firing point 20 while shoot will compete from firing point 50 along with 44 other competitors.
After coming in fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials for Air Pistol, Brown claimed the top spot with a five-point advantage over two-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Jason Turner. Brown has had a very successful four years leading up to this event with a bronze medal at the 2013 Bavarian Airgun Championships, gold at 2013 World Cup USA, gold in the 2014 Championship of the Americas (where he secured the 2016 Olympic Quota for the United States), and silver at 2016 Bangkok World Cup. With his steely calm, he could have a demanding presence in Rio.
Shi has been looking toward the Olympics since 2006 after learning the 2008 Olympic Games were going to be in his birthplace, Beijing, China. After an injury to his right eye, his family moved to the United States where, at the age of 37, he pursued international-style pistol. Shi had a commanding performance at the U.S. Olympic Trials for Smallbore in 50m Free Pistol where he held a 26-point lead, which earned him a spot on the USA Olympic Shooting Team. The 2015 Pan American Games silver medalist in this event earned the opportunity to compete Saturday after earning a minimum qualifying score in a previous World Cup.
The current Air Pistol World Record was set by Korean Jongoh Jin in May 2009 when he shot an incredible 594/600. The five-time Olympic medalist will be defending his record and his Olympic gold medal from 2012. He has collected medals in the 2012, 2008, and 2004 Olympic Games including silver in 2008 and fifth in 2004 in Air Pistol. He is one of three active shooters with five Olympic medals on his resume. Jin may be challenged by Brazil’s Felipe Almeida Wu who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Turner’s bronze in 2008 and Erich Buljung’s silver medal during the event’s debut in 1988 are currently the only medals earned by the U.S.
Format: In qualification, competitors fire 60 shots within 1 hour and 15 minutes. The shots are fired in the standing position 10 meters (33 feet) from a 10-ring target with a bullseye 11.5mm in diameter, or approximately the size of a dime. The qualifications are scored in integer points, with the maximum score per shot being 10 points, and the maximum qualification score being 600 points. The top-eight athletes from the qualification phase advance to the final match, where they can shoot up to 20 final shots. The eight finalists start the match with 0 points: the qualification score is not carried forward into the final round. The maximum score for each shot is still 10.9 points, because of an additional set of 10 rings within the 10-point circle that increases the score of 0.1 points as it approaches the center of the target. The final begins with two series of 3 shots, to be fired within 150 seconds, followed by 14 single shots to be fired on command and within 50 seconds. After the eighth final shot, the athlete with the lowest aggregate score is eliminated from the final and places eighth. Any following elimination is determined every two shots until the gold and silver medalists are decided by the 20th and conclusive shot. If there is a tie for the lowest ranking athlete to be eliminated, the tied athletes will fire additional tie-breaking single shots until the tie is broken.
Qualification – 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. ET
Finals – 2:30 p.m. ET | FINALS LIVESTREAM starting at 2:30 pm ET